Before we hired Chris Pudenz as Marco’s Chief Financial Officer last year, I didn’t realize we needed him because Marco was performing so well. However, as we grew and were purchased by Norwest Equity Partners (NEP), the complexity of our financial landscape increased.
Our reporting and accountability had reached a new level and became a bigger job. So, with some coaching from my boss, we looked for a person to fill our growing financial focus and allow our then CFO, Jennifer Mrozek, the ability to execute on another important strategic part of our business that she knew well—acquisitions and integration.
It’s hard to be the new person to a leadership team—especially when the other members have been working together for decades. It takes a leader who has confidence and competence, but can humbly ease into the role despite a list of strong credentials.
We found that leader in Chris Pudenz. Before joining Marco, Chris served as executive vice president and CFO of ABRA Auto Body & Glass. He led all finance, procurement and legal functions for the $900-million business and was recognized for his accomplishments, including being named CFO of the Year in 2015 by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Chris could have easily jumped into his new role at Marco, starting to tell us what to do better. But he didn’t walk in with an agenda. Recognizing himself as the “new guy,” he made it a priority to “fit in” and really understand us before making any moves.
That in itself earned him respect. Here’s what else made Chris a leader worth following:
- He built a strong financial team. As CFO, he knew Marco needed a team of financial professionals that could support our accelerated growth. He brought in new talent to augment our current skillsets, expanded our capabilities and raised the performance bar.
- He established credibility by providing key data and reports in a timely manner. Early on, he led the development of systems to provide team members across our organization with better information to make more accurate and informed decisions. He demonstrated an eye toward efficiencies. He identifies potential opportunities to make us better and can see the path to get us there.
- He focused on promoting culture. Chris right away went to work investing in our culture, showing up for events and organizing socials with his team (with Pam Kotzenmacher’s help). For a finance guy, it was pretty impressive. The rapport he built with his team was seen early on when they shrink wrapped his car in honor of his birthday. Fun and personable, he’s the guy you want to work for and socialize with.
- He’s the one you want in a meeting. Chris and his team have lots of data at their fingertips. He’s good at thin slicing it and presenting sound data that’s easy to understand and actionable. He’s often sought out for his opinion and assistance. I particularly appreciate his approach to challenging what’s always been done.
- He’s a teacher, making us all better. Chris collaborated with others to develop a financial acumen curriculum for our employees. He personally teaches a class to elevate the knowledge and financial understanding of our company. His presence extends beyond our leadership team to equip all of our employees to make better financial decisions.
When you work with the same leadership team for a long time, it can be challenging to add a new team member. But, I really couldn’t be more pleased with how things worked out for Marco with the addition of Chris. With his leadership this past year, we have become a better organization.
Some of the most effective leaders are the ones who are humbly working at the top—earning respect and trust one step at a time. Chris is definitely one of those guys.